For a while now I have wanted to write a blog about my London Marathon experience but didn’t want to do a “Race report”. It was such a special race in so many ways that I felt something else was needed to cover this subject. Then the other day while I was out running the trails I hit upon it.
What is a marathon?
Yes, it is 26.2 miles of running but that is just a number, a distance.
What does it mean, what does it feel like and how does it affect mind and body?
When I thought about signing up I didn’t really feel the dread of the distance, I mean it bothered me a little but I knew it would be so much more.
House keeping: I ran the Virgin London Marathon in 2017 after receiving a charity place from UNICEF, a cause very dear to my heart. This is a charity I have supported before and will do again. This was my first marathon.
A marathon is support.
I had never in my wildest dreams thought about running a marathon. In fact, for months and months I said never, no way. Then on Sunday 25th April 2016 I went to watch and support the London Marathon with family and friends. First we went to Rotherhithe to see the elites sprint past, the super speedy runners and then waited hoping to catch a glimpse of my good friend, (since 17 years old), Mike…alas, we didn’t see him. So then we went to Embankment to his charity support area. OMG the whole road was just crazy, so loud, so full of emotions. I was quite overwhelmed at times, (I also wondered why the hell I hadn’t been down to watch before). When I saw Mike arrive to give his young son and girlfriend hugs and kisses it was magical. Just an amazing sight.
This is where I learned about what it meant to be a supporter, what it meant for the runners to have the support when they most needed it.
This is when I decided I might try to enter, maybe. I kept those thoughts to myself, missed the ballot then did the charity thing, which turned out to be awesome.
Support is also what you will need from the people around you as you train. Some of you will know, it’s hard training to run a marathon. You need to have good support from family, friends and work colleagues. They will get you through the hardest of times. You must respect their sacrifices but you must also support them when they need it too. I tried to plan most of my training early mornings before my family even got up, this way I could still help get our daughter ready for school or be around to play with her or to take her swimming. We could even plan some days out together as a family, (except on the super long run days), which was nice. I also made time to see friends where possible too, it might only be every few weeks but sometimes you need something different to distract you from all the running chat. Then after all the training, having support on route is what you need. I had new friends out on the course from Instagram, I had old friends pop up at random points shouting my name. Then I had my awesome family. My wife, daughter, mum and dad. When I first saw them I was flying, when I next saw them just a few miles from the end I was dying. The hugs and high fives were fantastic. Seeing their faces gave me the energy to push on to finish.
The support from the public is just immense though. Never have I felt anything like it. It’s marvellous, intense, beautiful and hilarious. The funniest thing I had shouted at me was “Come on Jayzee, Beyonce is waiting for you at the finish line”, brilliant!
Support is also the volunteers who do everything to make your day go as smoothly as possible. Apart from the running obviously as that’s all on you! From the bag drop, to the water stations to the charity cheer squads, to the marshals, to the entertainers, to the bag collections, to the charity recovery areas. I want to say a big thank you to you all. One person stands out to me though, who had a special effect on me that day and this is my friend Ruth. If you read my previous blog, you will know it’s all her fault that I started racing, lol! Well, she was on a water station in the dreaded Docklands area. Around Mile 16ish, she saved me, as at that point I was at my lowest. I was in great pain as my IT band had gone, I was running but nowhere near the pace I wanted. It was a massive struggle. The hug I got from her at that water station gave me a boost that got me out of Docklands and on towards my family.
All of these moments are priceless and will be forever etched in my heart.
A marathon is friendship
We are very lucky that since moving to where we live, we made friends with Paul and Amanda plus kids from down the road. It was Paul who helped me when I first started running, showing me some trail routes and giving me heaps of encouragement. When we both secured our charity places, we decided we would do a bunch of the training runs together, especially the long ones. During this time our friendship grew even more, from the brisk 6am starts for an easy 40mins to 20miles on a Sunday morning. Come rain or shine, we got it done. We went to the expo and start line together, parted ways, then met up for a celebratory beer at his house after we were done. We’ll forever be mates now.
During my marathon journey I also made many more friends. I discovered the wonderful and supportive community on Instagram. I will talk about that further in another blog as it’s too big of a subject for here. During the build-up it was amazing to become part of such a supportive community and learn about everyone’s reasons for running. Giving support when I felt it was needed and receiving it back as well. I knew a bunch of my friends would be out on the course cheering loudly and I have to say that seeing the team about 8 miles in or something, almost missing them and doubling back for some high fives was amazing! Also, the messages of support pre and post-race were just so amazing, thank you again. Especially Becca, who had a really tough lead up and race. I loved our de-brief a few weeks later, you are a superstar.
Something that I didn’t expect or hadn’t really contemplated though, was meeting a fellow UNICEF team mate at the start line. We just happened to be standing next to each other, so I started talking to him. I am really bad with names, but he was an awesome guy from Perth, Australia. He had just run Paris and was working his way around the world marathon style! We talked for 15-20mins while waiting to start. He gave me loads of advice and encouragement, we talked about our families and arranged to meet up after the finish, which we did.
While around mile 10 I noticed another UNICEF runner, stumble just in front of me, so I stopped to check he was alright. He had just tripped so was fine but I think he felt a bit tired so we ran together for a bit until he felt ok. We met up after we finished too and apparently he was chasing me down Embankment. I had arranged to meet up with a member of the team before the race even started though. Andrzej was a lovely Polish guy who I had met via IG. He was a seasoned marathon runner and we had been talking for a while, swapping training stories and sharing encouraging words. We arranged to meet at the charity area after we finished and bless him, he waited for me even though he finished way before me. A true star.
A marathon is commitment
Commitment to training
Commitment to running 26.2 miles
For me commitment to helping a cause I cared about.
Barring serious injury or illness I was going to complete the distance. When I started training I was suffering from calf issues. I made a commitment to sort this out and I did.
I asked my PT Jack to work up a training plan for me, then committed to it. I found new ways to run, like track training and made a commitment to that each week for a month.
I made the commitment to Gillian that I would try to avoid it majorly impacting our family life as much as possible.
I also made a commitment to myself that I would do this right, look after my body, listen to it when it hurt and push it when I knew I could.
A marathon is emotional
When I was at the start I was pretty nervous but I also knew I was in the best shape of my life. I had a plan.
Gold Medal: 3hrs 30mins
Silver Medal: 3hrs 40mins
Bronze Medal: Sub 4hrs
My training led me to believe a silver was pretty possible. I was in a good starting pen, I was feeling great.
I wasn’t prepared for my IT band to cause me so much pain though. It had happened before but not for a while.
I was cruising until just after the half marathon distance (1hr45 I think), then it went and I also felt a loss of energy over the next couple of miles.
This section we very emotional for me, thoughts of failure came into my head. Would I be able to finish, what could I do to make sure I did? Your mind goes crazy and it was really odd. I had run 22miles in training and felt fine, on a much hillier route.
What had I done wrong?
What could I do to fix it?
As I was coming into Docklands, I stopped for a wee in the tunnel…yes I did that and I don’t care.
This gave me a moment to think…what could help me. I know my special Jay-Z playlist. It’s time to break out the big guns!
This, combined with Ruth, my friend Andy shouting out from the top of wall with a beer in his hands and my lovely family all helped me push through.
I knew gold was out and silver was slipping but I reset my head at some point and said I am going get sub 3hrs 50. That is my new aim and I am going to bloody do it!
And that is what I did. In 3hrs 48mins a very emotional and shell shocked Jon crossed the finish line.
I was numb, I smiled a bit for a photo but my brain was like you have to keep moving or you will break down.
Collect your goodie bag, god that was heavy!
Collect your own bag, omg my arms are like jelly why am I having to carry this stuff, surely there is someone who can help me. Nope, just me, god I am so alone right now.
Walk to charity area, that was all a blur.
Meet the lovely charity volunteers.
Burst into tears.
Because that’s when it hit me, what I had just done.
I had run a marathon.
I had run a sub 4hr marathon.
I had raised over £3000 for UNICEF.
Why am I crying?
I still don’t know, the feeling is so raw, I am even crying writing this.
A marathon is learning
Learning not to take a gel you have not tried before. Yuck Lucozade gel, yuck!
Learning not to run a 10K PB a week before a marathon, you dick!
Learning that there will always be more marathons
Learning to totally enjoy the running whatever happens
So to everyone who has a place in the 2018 London Marathon, enjoy the ride, it will be crazy fun and totes emotional.
To those that missed out, I’ll be in Paris and Berlin, come join me x